The Heron-Marked Sword: A Wheel of Time Deep Dive!


Watch the video or read the article (which is the video script and all the references!):


The Wheel of Time book series is full of incredible action with a variety of fighting styles and detailed weaponry. Amazon Prime released a teaser, where they revealed the tv series version of one of the most iconic weapons in the Wheel of Time: The Heron-marked sword. This is not a teaser breakdown or reaction article. Instead, this is the first of a deep dive series where I’ll unravel everything we know about the Weapons of the Wheel of Time. This is Unraveling the Pattern.


Weapons of the Wheel: The Heron-Marked Sword


If you’re new to the series and wish to remain completely spoiler free, avoiding even history or backstory, this article may not be for you, but no main story or plot related spoilers will be revealed here. If you have read the entire series, be sure to watch the two heavy-spoilers follow-up videos (coming soon) all about heron-marked swords and blademasters in the books. The first of two spoiler-heavy videos will also include some of my thoughts about the Amazon Prime heron-marked sword teaser. In the second spoiler-heavy video I will discuss the blademasters of the series and reveal my top 10 blademasters list. Let’s get to it.


History


In the Age of Legends, 3,000 years before the start of the Wheel of Time story, the world was peaceful, with no true comprehension of weapons or fighting. History books from that time contained words like “war” and “battle,” but people did not understand what those words meant.1

Violence was so rare that swords and other weapons were only used for sports like fencing,2,3 or to be looked at in museums that contained relics of Ages past. After the Bore was drilled and the Dark One was able to influence the world, people began to turn on each other and violent acts became more common.4


Over the course of about 100-110 years, a time known as The Collapse, many people sided with either the Dark One or the forces of the Light.5 The “ancient form of swordfighting”6 was revived and many primitive ways of war and combat were rediscovered. When the Dark One’s minions first attacked, the world was ill prepared. This was the beginning of the War of the Shadow, also called the War of Power.7 From that time, advances in technology slowed and weapon manufacturing became top priority.8 More deadly sword and knife sports were introduced9, and children as young as ten years old were trained to become soldiers, learning battle tactics and defense strategies.10


The One Power, a type of magic used in the Wheel of Time, was combined with forging techniques to create “Power-wrought” or “Power-forged” weapons by Aes Sedai or magic users of the time.11 Check out my video all about the One Power to learn more about the magic of the Wheel of Time.12




The World of Robert Jordan’s the Wheel of Time, or the “Big White Book” as fans lovingly call it, says the following:

“During the War of Power many weapons were made using the Power. Among these were very special swords made so that they would not shatter or break, and would never lose their edge. Some, made for soldiers, bore no special mark. The sword of the Malkieri Kings was one of these. Others were made for lord-generals, and bore a heron or other mark deep within the metal.”13

I’m currently creating an in-depth series all about the history of the Wheel of Time called “Wheel of Timelines.” You can watch the first one on my channel now,14 and the second one is out too!15 A more in-depth video all about the War of the Shadow or War of Power is planned as well.16


Much has changed in the world of the books since the War of Power, which ended about 3,000 years before the first book. The ancient technique of creating Power-forged weapons was lost, and so the few remaining Power-wrought heron-marked swords are rare and very valuable, with one character claiming there may only be a handful of them left in the world.17


Blademasters


During the Third Age, or the time period of the books, an extremely accomplished sword fighter can become a blademaster. According to the Wheel of Time Companion,


“There are two ways to become a blademaster: to receive a unanimous decision by a panel of five blademasters judging one’s skills, or to kill another blademaster in fair combat. A blademaster was entitled to carry a heron-marked sword.”18

So, if you see someone with a heron-mark sword during the Third Age, you would be wise to step lightly.


Sword Forms


One of the things that makes the sword fighting in the Wheel of Time unique is that Robert Jordan does not usually describe play-by-play action. Instead, he relies on what he called “Sword forms” or “Sword moves” to describe the fighting.20 This gives the reader the ability to fill in the action with their imagination. He uses terms like “Cat Crosses the Courtyard” or “Apple Blossoms in the Wind, or “Arc of the Moon,” or “Watered Silk,” just to name a few.21


There are dozens of sword form names, including the following:21


Apple Blossoms in the Wind

Arc of the Moon

Black Lance's Last Strike

Black Pebbles on Snow

The Boar Rushed Downhill

The Boar Rushes Down the Mountain

Bundling Straw

Cat Crosses the Courtyard

Cat Dances on the Wall

Cat on Hot Sand

The Courtier Taps His Fan

The Creeper Embraces the Oak

Cutting the Clouds

The Cyclone Rages

Dandelion in the Wind

The Dove Takes Flight

Eel Among the Lily Pads

The Falcon Stoops

The Falling Leaf

Folding the Air

Folding the Fan

The Grapevine Twines

The Heron Spreads Its Wings

Heron Wading in the Rushes

Hummingbird Kisses the Honeyrose

Kingfisher Circles the Pond

The Kingfisher Takes a Silverback

Kissing the Adder

Leaf on the Breeze

Leopard in High Grass

Leopard in the Tree

Leopard's Caress

Lightning of Three Prongs

Lion on the Hill

The Lion Springs

Lizard in the Thornbush

Lotus Closes Its Blossom

Low Wind Rising

Moon on the Water

The Moon Rises Over the Lakes

The Moon Rises Over Water

Oak Shakes Its Branches

Parting the Silk

Plucking the Low-Hanging Apple

Rain in High Wind

Rat Gnawing the Grain

Reaping the Barley

Red Hawk Takes a Dove

Ribbon in the Air

River of Light

The River Undercuts the Bank

The Rose Unfolds

Shake Dew from the Branch

Soft Rain at Sunset

Stone Falls From the Mountain

Stones Falling Down the Mountain

Stones Falling from the Cliff

Striking the Spark

The Swallow Rides the Air

The Swallow Takes Flight

Thistledown Floats on the Whirlwind

Threading the Needle

Tower of Morning

Twisting the Wind

Two Hares Leaping

Unfolding the Fan

The Viper Flicks Its Tongue

Water Flows Downhill

Watered Silk

Whirlwind on the Mountain

Wind and Rain

The Wind Blows Over the Wall

The Wood Grouse Dances


The Heron


When asked why he chose the heron as the symbol of a swordmaster, Robert Jordan said,


“I chose the heron because that is a quick, supple, and to its prey, very deadly bird. The perfect avian simile for a swordsman.”19

It is important to note that not all heron-mark blades are Power-wrought, and not all Power-wrought swords have a heron mark.22 As mentioned previously, the Power-forged sword of the Malkieri kings has no marks.13


The Big White Book also says,


“Because the number of blademasters exceeds the number of swords that survived the war [of Power], many of the current [Third Age] heron-marked swords are not Aes Sedai work. They are, however, the finest steel that men can temper.”23

Referring to Power-wrought heron mark swords, Robert Jordan said:


“The material of a true heron mark blade is altered. It is not simple steel anymore.” (emphasis added)24

When a blademaster’s sword does contain the heron mark, it is most often engraved or etched onto the blade near the guard, but sometimes the heron can also be found on the hilt and/or the scabbard.25


Not all heron-mark swords are necessarily the same style or shape, but the majority of them have a slightly curved blade with only one sharp edge.26 The sword in the Amazon Prime teaser seems to be a katana style, but there are many sword types with a slightly curved edge that are not katanas, such as the Tulwar, sabre, scimitar, and Kriegsmesser, just to name a few.27 There are also some really interesting artist interpretations of the heron-marked swords from the books that vary in style.


Speaking of amazing artists. Special thanks to Petr Nikolenko and Kevin Fontana for helping me with some of the 3D modeling for this video. You can follow them on Twitter.28-29 Petr does some incredible blacksmithing work, and has created some awesome Wheel of Time inspired armor.28


Please consider liking, subscribing, and supporting me on Patreon for more content like this! Comment below with which Wheel of Time weapon you would like to see next.


Thank you to the artists who gave me permission to use their work in this video. And a big THANK YOU to my wonderful patrons who help make these videos possible!


If you’ve read the whole Wheel of Time series, remember keep your eyes open for my other two spoiler-heavy follow-up videos/articles all about heron-marked blades in the books and my top 10 ranked blademasters list. I’ll also discuss my thoughts on the heron-marked blade teaser that Amazon Prime released.


May peace favor your sword!


REFERENCES (SPOILER WARNING!):


  1. The World of Robert Jordan’s the Wheel of Time. CHAPTER 3: The Age of Legends

  2. “There was a time, before the Breaking of the World, when men and women wielded the One Power side by side with no fear of any taint on saidin. In this time there were no wars – even the word for war was lost, known only to scholars – and all manner of wonders were commonplace. This age is now known as the Age of Legends.” (p. 29)

  3. “As a result, the concept of war did not exist. At least not until the very end of the Age of Legends.”(p. 38)

  4. The World of Robert Jordan’s the Wheel of Time. CHAPTER 3: The Age of Legends

  5. “Despite the overall harmonious balance within society, crime, including violent crimes and crimes of passion, was not unknown. Society did not believe in any type of restraint unless absolutely necessary. When the perpetrators of violent acts were caught, they were not sent to prison. Rather, they were constrained, in some manner not fully understood, against repeat offenses. This binding made it impossible for the criminal to repeat his crime. As a result, criminal acts of any kind were very rare.” (p. 37)

  6. The World of Robert Jordan’s the Wheel of Time. CHAPTER 3: The Age of Legends

  7. “Some sports, such as swordplay, formerly considered a tame form of exercise, were reinvented as deadly martial arts.” (p. 43)

  8. The World of Robert Jordan’s the Wheel of Time. CHAPTER 4: The Fall into the Shadow

  9. “Up to this time, the denizens of the world had only to deal with the evil within themselves. If motivations for war and hate were removed, then so were the resultant activities. The bore changed all of that. Like a small finger hole in a prison wall, the bore was not large enough to allow the Dark One’s escape, but it was large enough to allow him to touch the world. His touch subtly altered everything that came with its influence. All the base motivations and emotional problems of mankind were enhanced and manipulated, enlarging envy, greed, and anger despite lack of any true motivating factors. All those dissatisfied with their lot in life felt that dissatisfaction intensify. Thievery, assault, murder and even wars began to appear with increasing frequency.” (p. 41-42)

  10. “In some parts of the world, in the years immediately preceding the final collapse into war, murder, rape and even torture became regular parts of many spectator sports.” (p. 42)

  11. The World of Robert Jordan’s the Wheel of Time. CHAPTER 4: The Fall into the Shadow

  12. “This period of increasingly dark chaos lasted approximately one hundred years to one hundred ten years after the drilling of the bore, and was referred to as the Collapse by several very early sources. It certainly qualified for the name, as civilization did very nearly collapse, and the order and peace of the world of the Age of Legends certainly did.” (p. 43)

  13. The World of Robert Jordan’s the Wheel of Time. CHAPTER 4: The Fall into the Shadow

  14. “Some sports, such as swordplay, formerly considered a tame form of exercise, were reinvented as deadly martial arts. Children were trained from the age of ten to become soldiers. Men and women learned battle tactics and defense strategies where before they had studied art and music. As the entire world had once lived peace, it now became geared for war.” (p. 43)

  15. Also, see The Dragon Reborn, CHAPTER 55 - What is Written in Prophecy

  16. The World of Robert Jordan’s the Wheel of Time. CHAPTER 4: The Fall into the Shadow

  17. “Eventually, those loyal to the Dark One felt themselves strong enough to act. In a swift strike they made an attempt to free the Dark One completely and take control. This event was the actual beginning of the War of the Shadow, which pitted the followers and minions of the Dark against those who fought to resist, and which soon involved the whole world. During the resulting ten year struggle, all the forgotten facets of war were rediscovered, in many cases twisted by the dark.” (p. 43)

  18. The World of Robert Jordan’s the Wheel of Time. CHAPTER 4: The Fall into the Shadow

  19. “Fearsome constructs, creatures out of nightmare, and weapons of evil were unleashed on an ill-prepared population. Under the onslaught of the dark forces, the defenders were forced to turn their technology to the making of the weapons of war. Jo-cars were armored and fitted with weapons, hoverflies were altered into deadly flying machines capable of striking from the sky. Shocklances and other tools of long-distance destruction were built along with suitable body armor. Fancloth, formerly used for fashion, became the material for camouflage battle capes and proved invaluable on the battlefield.”(p. 43)

  20. The World of Robert Jordan’s the Wheel of Time. CHAPTER 4: The Fall into the Shadow

  21. “Some sports, such as swordplay, formerly considered a tame form of exercise, were reinvented as deadly martial arts.” (p. 43)

  22. “It was during this time that such brutal sports as sha’je dueling came briefly into vogue. sha’je duels, held at Qual, involved the use of left and right hand daggers, called respectively osan’gar and aran’gar, tipped with slow poison. There was rarely a clear winner, since both participants usually succumbed to either blade or poison.” (p. 42)

  23. Also, see The Dragon Reborn, CHAPTER 55 - What is Written in Prophecy

  24. The World of Robert Jordan’s the Wheel of Time. CHAPTER 4: The Fall into the Shadow

  25. “Children were trained from the age of ten to become soldiers. Men and women learned battle tactics and defense strategies where before they had studied art and music. As the entire world had once lived in peace, it now became geared for war.” (p. 43)

  26. The Wheel of Time Companion: Power-wrought blade. (p. 596)

  27. “A blade forged with the aid of use of the One Power. It was all but indestructible, held its edge and did not rust.”

  28. Also, see The Great Hunt, Ch. 1: The Flame of Tar Valon

  29. “With the One Power, Aes Sedai drew iron and other metals from the earth, smelted them, formed and wrought them. All with the Power. Swords, and other weapons, too. Many that survived the Breaking of the World were destroyed by men who feared and hated Aes Sedai work, and others have vanished with the years. Few remain, and few men truly know what they are. There have been legends of them, swollen tales of swords that seemed to have a power of their own. You've heard the gleemen's tales. The reality is enough. Blades that will not shatter or break, and never lose their edge. I've seen men sharpening them-playing at sharpening, as it were-but only because they could not believe a sword did not need it after use. All they ever did was wear away their oilstones.”

  30. https://youtu.be/mChZ9cN1ZFY

  31. The World of Robert Jordan’s the Wheel of Time. Power-wrought Blades

  32. “During the War of Power many weapons were made using the Power. Among these were very special swords made so that they would not shatter or break, and would never lose their edge. Some, made for soldiers, bore no special mark. The sword of the Malkieri Kings was one of these. Others were made for lord-generals, and bore a heron or other mark deep within the metal.”(p. 232)

  33. https://youtu.be/QH4EPs_mUZo

  34. https://youtu.be/ldqoXGRQqnE

  35. TBD

  36. The Great Hunt, Ch. 1: The Flame of Tar Valon

  37. “Not all heron-mark blades are Aes Sedai work. Few men handle a sword with the skill to be named blademaster and be awarded a heron-mark blade, but even so, not enough Aes Sedai blades remain for more than a handful to have one. Most come from master bladesmiths; the finest steel men can make, yet still wrought by a man's hands. But that one, sheepherder . . . that one could tell a tale of three thousand years and more.”

  38. The Wheel of Time Companion: Blademaster.

  39. https://www.theoryland.com/intvmain.php?i=135

  40. INTERVIEW: Apr 6th, 2001

  41. Dromen and Demonen Chat (Verbatim)

  42. GENOVEVA

  43. Mr. Jordan, why did you choose a heron as a mark for the Dragon Reborn (and swordmasters)?

  44. ROBERT JORDAN

  45. I chose the heron because that is a quick, supple, and to its prey, very deadly bird. The perfect avian simile for a swordsman.

  46. The Great Hunt, Ch. 1 - The Flame of Tar Valon

  47. “Remember that that Heron form is only for practicing balance. Anywhere but doing forms, it leaves you wide open; you can strike home from it, if you wait for the other man to move first, but you'll never avoid his blade."

  48. Also, see The Great Hunt, Ch. 45 - Blademaster

  49. “He recognized the forms the High Lord used; they were a little different from what he had been taught, but not enough. The Swallow Takes Flight met Parting the Silk. Moon on the Water met The Wood Grouse Dances. Ribbon in the Air met Stones Falling From the Cliff. They moved about the room as in a dance, and their music was steel against steel.”

  50. The Wheel of Time Companion: sword moves. (p. 711)

  51. Accidental double reference. See ref. 17

  52. The Wheel of Time Companion: Power-wrought blade. (p. 596)

  53. “Because the number of blademasters exceeds the number of swords that survived the war, many of the current heron-marked swords are not Aes Sedai work. They are, however, the finest steel that men can temper.”

  54. https://www.theoryland.com/intvmain.php?i=135

  55. INTERVIEW: Apr 6th, 2001

  56. Dromen and Demonen Chat (Verbatim)

  57. SARAH-KAYAN

  58. Is the material of a true heron blade altered the same way as a ter'angreal?

  59. ROBERT JORDAN

  60. The material of a true heron mark blade is altered. It is not simple steel anymore.

  61. The Eye of the World, Ch. 5 - Winternight

  62. “from the belt hung a sword, with a bronze heron on the black scabbard and another on the long hilt. The only men Rand had ever seen wearing swords were the merchants' guards. And Lan, of course. That his father might own one had never even occurred to him. Except for the herons, the sword looked a good deal like Lan's sword.”

  63. “The blade, very slightly curved and sharp on only one edge, bore another heron etched into the steel. Short quillons, worked to look like braid, flanked the hilt.”

  64. Accidental double reference: See ref. 25

  65. https://twitter.com/WOTonPrime/status/1334195629438894081?s=20

  66. And a google search for “curved swords” ;)

  67. Petr Nikolenko - https://twitter.com/NikolenkoPetr

  68. Kevin Fontana - https://twitter.com/Kfon101


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TheGreatBlight.com is a fan-run website and is not affiliated with the Bandersnatch Group, Amazon Studios, Sony Pictures Television, or TOR Books. All content contained within is for the purpose of fan enjoyment and promotion of the Wheel of Time books as well as the Amazon Studios television series.